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We came across this interesting infographic at Wired Magazine the other day, highlighting a number of websites throughout the world that have a bigger local foothold than their globally popular American equivalents:
Take Rakuten’s dominance in Japan for example. Amazon has successfully expanded on a global level, but Rakuten, by offering services, products, and a format specific to Japan, has been able to successfully capture a third of a $30 billion market.1
This underscores the importance of the localization aspect of translation services in expanding your business beyond the borders of your home country. Simply translating the words of your website or white papers into a foreign language is not sufficient in building your brand abroad. You must ensure that the translator is a native of the target country, so as to be knowledgeable about local cultural idiosyncrasies and be capable of expressing your meticulously worded documents in a way that speaks to the local population. For example, if your document included the idiom “I have other fish to fry”, a Francophone might be confused to read the direct translation of “j’ai d’autres poissons à faire frire”; the French equivalent is “j’ai d’autres chats à fouetter”, or “I have other cats to whip” (it would appear between the English “there is more than one way to skin a cat” and this one, felines can’t catch a break when it comes to idioms!)
Localization is an essential component in ensuring that your translation has the maximum effect in the target market. At Morningside, translators for projects involving localization are selected not only on the basis of their expertise in the appropriate field, but also their mother tongue and local knowledge. After all, you wouldn’t want to appear to be an octopus in a garage (Spanish equivalent of “fish out of water”)!
1. http://www.economist.com/node/16322651 [Retrieved 05/01/12]